Photos: Megan Schetzsle
Picking up and moving across the country is no small feat, and in our case it was made even harder by the fact that we were downsizing. My husband and I were moving from a two-bedroom apartment to a 650-square-foot log cabin.
On top of that we were moving from a big city to a small one; from a populated area to a rural one; from flat Texas to the Tetons. And we were having a baby in two months. We were turning our lives upside down, but for good reason!
One thing that I didn’t count on was how different life would be living in a log cabin. I figured it would be the same as the other places I’d lived, only made of logs. Perhaps it would be cozier, warmer. I envisioned snow fluttering outside the window while I curled up with a cup of hot cocoa in front of the fire.
It’s not that my visions of log cabin living were false, just that there ended up being more to the story … more change in everyday life, in our family and even in my mindset. I wish now that I had been more prepared for what it would be like to live in a cabin. If I could go back in time and talk to myself before we moved, here’s what I would say:
1. You need less than you think.
Most cabins don’t have a ton of storage. We had to get creative in how we used our space, such as setting up our baby changing station in the bathroom closet. Even though we sold almost everything we owned before we moved, we still had too much stuff. When you live in a small space, clutter makes it feel even smaller. We learned to use less than we did previously. Lots of things that I defined as “necessary” before we moved no longer applied.
My mindset shifted immediately. I used to regularly shop on Amazon. Not for anything crazy, but for little things I felt I needed. Something would pop into my head, and I would convince myself that I needed it. That without this “thing,” our living room or my closet wouldn’t be complete.
But in the cabin, it turned out the thing we needed was extra space. I would find myself going down the old path of “I need this,” and thinking of ways around it. What else can I use instead? Is this actually an essential? Do I already have one of these or something similar?
I found that I needed less than I thought I did. Perhaps this is a minimalistic approach or maybe just a practical one, but either way I’m thankful that the cabin taught me this lesson. We have less clutter, more in our bank account, and I feel that this helps us have a clearer mindset in general.
2. You have to pay closer attention to the weather.
This one is serious. I got really in tune with the weather here really fast. There are several factors to why this happens:
We don’t have central A/C or heat, and heat is generated mostly by wood stove. If you aren’t paying attention to the weather, you’re going to be sweating or freezing when you don’t want to be. In the colder months, this means watching out for how cold it will get so we know to keep our fire going. In the summer months, this means opening windows throughout the day. And sometimes it means opening every window and praying for a breeze. Weather is an influence no matter where you live, but in a little log cabin in a big Wyoming mountain valley, we feel it strongly!
3. You’ll have less control over your surroundings.
As with the weather, there are other things we don’t have control of. For a former city girl like me, the biggest of these are:
• Household maintenance — Things break. We had a plumbing issue one day and when the plumber came over, he remarked that, “A plumber definitely didn’t set this up!” It was a do-it-yourself job by the man who originally built our cabin 10 years ago. Out here things are a little trickier to fix.
• Wildlife — We’re lucky that we get to see lots of animals where we are. Elk migrate through our yard twice a year. Moose, foxes and coyotes regularly hang out in the neighborhood. Sometimes the close proximity of these animals means that we can’t walk the dog until they pass. One time I took the baby for a stroller ride and had to turn around because of a moose.
These things may not seem like a big deal, but coming from an environment where we could control almost everything, I noticed a difference. In our apartment, if it were too hot, we would put on the A/C. We would walk the dog at regular times each day. There was never a need to look out for large, dangerous animals!
Something often comes up that needs to be dealt with right away. At first these interruptions felt like inconveniences but that has passed. The benefits of log home living — seeing wildlife, being close to the mountains, living in a log home — all outweigh any feelings of lost control over my surroundings.
4. You’ll want to go outside more.
There’s something about living in a log cabin that makes you feel closer to nature. You feel the elements more, whether it’s the snow piling up against the house or the breeze blowing through the cabin. In warmer months, our windows and doors are open often, letting in the air and sounds of outside.
This inspires us to get outside more. On nice days, the sunny skies call to us, and on bad-weather days we look forward to the next nice day that much more. Cabin fever is very real. Getting outside is a good cure for it.
5. Log cabin living is cozy.
This point is extra special to me. It’s one of the highlights of log cabin living. I’d love to go back to myself before we moved and explain how cozy the cabin is. Before we moved, I was nervous about winters, about being cold or cooped up in the cabin. But there’s something so enjoyable about being cozy inside by the fire while it’s cold outside. Going to bed cuddled up in our loft with a fire crackling is one of the best feelings. Waking up to a fresh blanket of snow outside the cabin windows is one of the prettiest sights. Hot cocoa under a heavy blanket with snow falling outside isn’t bad either. Some of my favorite memories of living here aren’t the mountains we’ve hiked or the wildlife we’ve seen — they’re moments cozied up in the cabin!
All in all, I would go back to myself before we moved and say that everything will be different. Some parts of log cabin living feel harder than what you’re used to, but it’s worth it. All the clichés of living in a log cabin are (mostly) true, and you will love them all. Lots of things will be unexpected, but overall it will be better than expected.
Reprinted with permission from the author.
Megan lives with her husband and son in an 800 sqft log cabin in Jackson Hole, WY. In search of a simpler pace of life, Megan & her husband took a leap of faith to pursue their own cabin dreams: they quit their jobs, sold what they own, and moved across the country from downtown Austin, TX to their mountain side cabin in Jackson Hole, WY. You can read her blog here or follow her on Instagram here.